Not all patients are able to communicate effectively in consultations with medical specialists. Patient coaching has shown to be effective for enhancing communication. We aimed to get healthcare professionals’ views on target groups for patient coaching, on supportive elements in patient coaching and on the necessary qualifications and profile of a patient coach, to further knowledge on the concept of patient coaching as supportive intervention for patients in consultations with medical specialists.
We chose a qualitative research design and interviewed eighteen healthcare professionals: medical specialists, family physicians, community nurses and nurse specialists/physician assistants and analysed the verbatim transcripts using QUAGOL (Qualitative Analysis Guide of Leuven). After a short introduction of the global concept of patient coaching and presentation of patient’s perceived barriers, two interviewers structured the interview around three research questions: which patients could benefit from a patient coach, what should such a coach do, and who could act like such a coach?
Participants describe patients who could benefit from patient coaching as generally vulnerable (e.g. older age, insufficiently accompanied, lower socioeconomic status, co-morbidity, cognitive problems), but also patients who are situationally vulnerable (e.g. elicited by bad news). Patient coaching should comprise emotional and instrumental support, aiming at reducing stress and improving processing of medical information. Patient coaching should start from the patient’s home and include preparing questions, navigating to and in the hospital, recording information during the consultation, checking understanding and recalling information. Patient coaches should have at least basic medical knowledge and a higher education.
Healthcare professionals believe patient coaching by a trained professional with medical knowledge could be beneficial to patients who are stressed when visiting a medical specialist. Future research should involve the views of patients on patient coaching, focus on investigating to what extent patient coaching is able to reduce stress and support a patient in processing medical information and the preferred patient coach’s profile.